Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission pondering court ruling |

Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission pondering court ruling

John ColsonGlenwood Springs Post Independent

The state agency in charge of oil and gas development in Colorado has yet to decide what to do about a recent court ruling viewed by some as whittling away the commission’s authority.”We are evaluating the decision and considering our options,” said Dave Neslin, executive director of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, in a telephone interview on Monday.The Colorado Court of Appeals on June 24 ruled that a group of plaintiffs, including adjacent surface-rights owners, have a right to ask for a hearing before the COGCC concerning applications to drill for natural gas near the Rulison nuclear blast site.The site, located between Rifle and Parachute/Battlement Mesa along the Colorado River corridor, is where the federal government in 1969 detonated a nuclear device at 8,400 feet below the surface in an attempt to loosen up deeply buried gas and oil reserves.The experiment failed, and area landowners have worried that efforts to drill for gas near the underground might unleash nuclear contamination into the area’s groundwater or the air.Recently, gas companies have expressed interest in drilling near the site, and some permits have been issued, Neslin said.But at least two nearby landowners, the Kents and the Weldons, hope to block exploration close to the site, and filed the suit against the COGCC and EnCana Oil & Gas (USA), which is applying to drill near the Rulison site.The COGCC rules had specifically barred only holders of adjacent surface rights – rather than owners of adjacent mineral rights – from requesting a hearing before the COGCC on applications to drill on nearby private property.Mineral rights holders, as well as the local county government and certain other parties, do have “standing,” or a right to request a hearing.Neslin pointed out that, under the COGCC rules, any interested party could file a written statement concerning any application to drill, and that “there are other ways” for interested parties to get involved with the process short of requesting a formal hearing.He said the COGCC may discuss the court’s ruling, and possible next steps for the commission, at its July 8 meeting.